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Government’s £427m support for farmers

| Duncan & Toplis | 23 February 2024

The government has announced a £427 million grant offer for farmers in the coming financial year, the doubling of investment in productivity schemes, and a 10% increase in the average value of agreements in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes.

Mark Chatterton, Head of Agriculture at Duncan & Toplis says the Prime Minister and Environment Secretary have demonstrated “good timing” in announcing the funding, potentially cutting off talk of possible demonstrations as seen elsewhere in Europe.

Commenting, Mark said

“This is good timing from the government - it has been announced just when farmers in the UK are seeing the impact that striking farmers on the continent are having, so it might even avert a call for tractors on the M25!

“11,000 farms have already signed up to the new SFI scheme out of about 55,000 who were registered for the BPS (Basic Payment Scheme). The commitment to increase the rates by another 10% should persuade even more to sign up.

“Specific grants for technology and productivity are also welcome, with funding for automation likely to help farmers upgrade pack lines.

“One of my clients, for example, has seen his 100-strong workforce labour costs increase 10% in each of the last three years. They are now investing two million pounds in a plant upgrade to try and reduce their total labour costs, so a 40% grant from the government will certainly help to reduce the total amount they shall need to borrow to make their business more financially sustainable.”

Over recent months, farmers in several European countries have engaged in protests over competition with imported foods, as well as the rising cost of production, environmental restrictions, cuts in subsidies, and excessive bureaucracy. Farmers have driven tractors and farming machinery en-masse along major roads and highways and parked tractors outside government buildings in protest, with some even spreading mud, dumping manure, or spilling seed across roads and level crossings.

So far, there have been some smaller-scale protests by farmers in the UK, notably in Wales and southern England, but they are yet to reach the scale or level of disruption seen elsewhere.

Speaking at the NFU Conference on Tuesday, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, told farmers “I’ve got your back”. He said:

“While the importance of farmers will never change – farming is going through its biggest change in a generation. And as farmers do so, this government will be by their side. They have been dealing with soaring global prices in things like fuel and fertiliser. So, we’ve been working hard to get inflation down – from 11.1% last year to 4% now. And we’re increasing payments in our farming schemes by an average of 10%.

“They are also at the forefront of innovation – from gene editing to boost resilience to disease, to automation to help harvest crops. And while thanks to you we enjoy good quality food all year round, global events – including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have put food security back at the top of the agenda. We’ll never take our food security for granted. We’ve got a plan to support British farming – and we’re going further again today.”

You can read the government’s press release on its announcement and a full list of updates and changes to funding schemes on the gov.uk website.

For more information, get in touch with Mark or our agriculture team.

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